Obama, the Senate, and the Future of the GOP

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Will Republicans win control of the Senate this November? Jamelle Bouie cuts through the fog of detailed state-by-state projections:

The easy way to put this is that the Republican Senate majority depends entirely on Mitt Romney’s performance in November. If Romney wins with even a slight majority, then—given the decline of split-ticket voting—odds are good that Republicans [will win the Senate]. By contrast, an Obama win—which would imply high minority turnout—would likely result in a narrow Senate majority for Democrats, and a smaller House majority for Republicans. In other words, we would have a variation on the status quo.

It should be said that this puts lie to Obama’s promise to “break the stalemate” if he wins re-election. Republicans have no incentive to be The moderate; as time goes on, it becomes much more difficult for the incumbent party to maintain its hold on power. If Republicans hold on to their right-wing intransigence, they’ll eventually be rewarded; Democrats will lose their grip on the White House and their majorities in Congress, and the GOP will have the space it needs to pursue its agenda.

Maybe. But this implies that Obama himself plays no real role in this aside from winning a second term. I’m not sure that’s true. If you assume that the election is going to be close either way, then it probably matters whether or not Obama runs a fairly selfish campaign, focused solely on his own reelection, or if he spends a fair amount of time in Wisconsin and Virginia and a few other states with close races. The latter might help tip a few states into the blue column that would otherwise go to the Republicans.

As for the future, I guess I agree with Jamelle at this point. A couple of years ago, I would have suggested that if Republicans lost again in 2012 they’d finally do what Democrats did in the late 80s, and start tacking back toward the center. That would mean compromising on immigration, ditching the anti-gay hysteria that turns off young voters so badly, and maybe even accepting more government intervention in the healthcare market. But I’m nowhere near as sure of that anymore. The other possible GOP reaction to demographic change is to double down on the groups that already support them — whites, Southerners, the rich, the elderly, etc. — and continue trying to eke out victories. Given how slowly demographic changes occur, and how powerful the Fox News effect is, this strategy could be effective for longer than anyone thinks.

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